Saturday, June 24, 2017

The option of a consultative referendum on independence

Assuming Nicola Sturgeon isn't about to make the dreadful mistake of substantively changing the SNP's policy on an independence referendum (and, touch wood, that worry has receded somewhat after Ian Blackford's strong restatement of the policy in the Commons the other day), it's fair to say that the general election result has only made a referendum less likely to the extent that it's made a soft Brexit a little more likely.  If, as the likes of Michael Portillo predict, Britain now remains in the single market, there will be no need for a referendum because Ms Sturgeon's red line won't have been crossed.  But if, as seems much more probable, we're still heading towards a 'bespoke red white and blue Brexit' that falls well short of single market membership, the logic and mandate for a referendum will be inescapable.  The Tories clearly want to block any vote from taking place before 2021, but they were saying much the same thing (albeit in a somewhat cagier fashion) even before the election.

So the big question remains exactly the same as it was a couple of months ago : if a referendum becomes necessary, and if the Tory government says no, what then?  We've been told repeatedly that Nicola Sturgeon is not attracted to the idea of a consultative referendum held without the granting of a Section 30 order by Westminster.  That seems odd, because Alex Salmond was preparing the ground for exactly that sort of referendum in his early years as First Minister, at a time when Ms Sturgeon was his deputy.  It would be a fully legal referendum, not a 'wildcat vote' as STV once described it, because in order for it to happen the lawyers would have to successfully frame the legislation in such a way that the Presiding Officer would certify it as being within the parliament's powers.  It might also have to survive a legal challenge.  If it proved possible to reach that point, it's not hard to see the attractions -

1)  The referendum would go ahead without the SNP having to cross any further electoral hurdles.  Leader-writers in the Observer would be able to splutter indignantly to their hearts' content about the independence debate being "settled", but it wouldn't make any difference.  The mandate for a referendum was received in the Holyrood election last spring, and the SNP's term of office still has almost four years to run.

2) As soon as a consultative referendum becomes a reality, the unionist parties will be faced with a monumental strategic dilemma.  They'll either have to campaign full-bloodedly for a No vote, or boycott the referendum completely.  If they do campaign, they'll effectively acknowledge the legitimacy of the vote, thus rendering the denial of a Section 30 order completely pointless.

3) If, on the other hand, there is a unionist boycott, a Yes majority will become inevitable, and the only task for the Yes campaign will be to produce a turnout on their own side that at least makes it look plausible that the victory could still have been won without the boycott.  (It shouldn't be forgotten that Strathclyde Regional Council's consultative referendum on the water industry in 1994 stunned everyone with a turnout of more than 70%, in spite of an effective Tory boycott - the theory before the vote was that anything in the 40s would be decent enough.)  OK, the unionists will brand the result illegitimate, but they'll be on a lot weaker ground than before - instead of arguing that the No vote in 2014 has settled everything, they'll be arguing that a much more recent Yes vote hasn't settled anything at all.  We might even end up with the ultimate role reversal of the SNP fighting the 2021 Holyrood election on the basis that Indyref 3 isn't wanted or needed, and that the opposition parties should accept the result of Indyref 2 and move on.

Sounds like a win/win to me.

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The DUP's "defeat", in numbers

It may be a surprise to you to learn that the DUP lost the general election in Northern Ireland, but as we all know the SNP's "defeat" in Scotland has become the accepted benchmark for electoral "failure" across the globe.  I'm afraid the direct comparison makes for pretty bleak reading from Arlene Foster's point of view.

SNP's performance in Scotland :

Percentage of seats : 59.3%
Vote share : 36.9%

DUP's performance in Northern Ireland :

Percentage of seats : 55.6%
Vote share : 36.0%

Ouch.  Bit of a mystery why the London government wants to have anything to do with a party that did even worse than the SNP.  But then again, the Scottish Tories are still welcome in polite circles, so it appears exceptions can be made...

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Did some SNP supporters stay at home because the party downplayed independence?

A number of people on social media today raised an eyebrow or two at YouGov findings that show people who voted SNP in 2015 were significantly more likely to simply stay at home in the 2017 election than voters for any other party (with the exception of UKIP).  This has raised the possibility that much of the swing from the SNP to the Tories and Labour was caused by SNP abstentions, rather than net movement from one side to the other.

Unfortunately, there isn't enough information in the datasets to draw such a strong conclusion.  This is a GB-wide poll, and the SNP's abstention rate is not being compared with that of the Scottish Tories or Scottish Labour, but with the Tories and Labour across Britain as a whole.  That's bound to give a misleading impression, because turnout in Scotland dropped by several points this year, whereas it rose south of the border.

The most that can be said, therefore, is that this poll is consistent with the theory that the SNP suffered from differential turnout, but it doesn't provide proof.  If that is what happened, presumably there were independence supporters who were fired up in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 referendum, but who this time weren't sufficiently inspired by the rather vague (and bland?) "Stronger for Scotland" message.  I suspect the SNP missed a trick by downplaying independence during the campaign - they were probably worried about losing No voters, but the pre-election polls suggested most of those people had already drifted off anyway.

The poll's oddest finding is that, even after abstainers are excluded, only 33% of people who voted Plaid Cymru in 2015 stuck with the party this year.  The equivalent figure for the SNP is 71%.  It's hard not to be sceptical about that finding, because Plaid's vote share only slipped 1.7% (and they made a net gain of one seat!).

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Ruth is reeling after stunning ScotPulse poll finds majority of Scots are open to the idea of an independence referendum

After last week's dodgy poll from the Daily Record with the leading question, we have a more neutrally-worded poll from ScotPulse on an independence referendum, and unsurprisingly it produces a radically different result.

A total of 30% of respondents want an independence referendum either before or after Brexit.  A further 22% say their view on a referendum will depend on how Brexit works out.  The speed-counters among you will already have spotted that this means a slim majority (52%) are open to the idea of a referendum.  Only 48% are opposed.

For the avoidance of doubt, the actual results of this poll are good news.  After the relentless and almost comical propaganda of the last couple of weeks, you'd expect support for a referendum to be at an unusual low (not least because natural supporters of a referendum will be feeling cowed at the moment).  So for a poll to show a majority are still open to the idea is very heartening.

The bad news, however, is that we know of old that ScotPulse polls are not correctly weighted, so how much credibility today's results have is anyone's guess.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Scot Goes Pop Ham-and-Cheese Toastie Fundraiser

Click here to go straight to the fundraiser page.

As you may remember, I was doing my best in the early months of this year to promote this blog's last fundraiser from 2015, which remained open for new donations.  Progress was fairly slow, but nevertheless I'm hugely grateful for all the extra donations received, because they've been just about enough to keep everything afloat over the last few extraordinary weeks.  During the month up to June 8th, the blog received more visitors than in all but one previous month in its history.  That kind of performance simply wouldn't have been possible without your help - blogging during an election period is incredibly time-consuming, and the fundraiser money gave me the freedom and flexibility to drop everything and write when required.

I abruptly stopped promoting the donation link altogether in March, because I didn't want to distract from the fundraising efforts for ScotRef, or later for the SNP general election campaign.  However, as a result of that, I have now reached the point where in the immortal words of Liam Byrne "there is no money left".  That means I can't even risk returning to the previous fundraiser, because back in the winter Indiegogo missed their 4-weekly payment schedule, and I didn't receive some of the funds for two months.  I've no idea how common that sort of glitch is, but if it happened again I might be waiting until mid-August, which would come pretty close to defeating the whole point of the exercise.  So instead I've started afresh with a new fundraiser on a different platform.  I'm going to give GoFundMe a try and see how it works out.

I never plan things out too much in advance, other than the fact that I intend to continue writing regularly in some form - probably on this blog, perhaps on other websites, or perhaps I'll follow the example of other pro-indy bloggers by taking time out to write a book for self-publication.  Rather than pitching the last fundraiser as a chance to finance "465 blogposts over the next eight months" or whatever, I suggested that it should instead be seen as a chance to "buy me a hot chocolate" if you'd enjoyed my writing or found it useful.  But blogging is hungry as well as thirsty work, and I do like nothing more than a ham-and-cheese toastie (alternative fillings simply don't compare) with my hot chocolate.  So feel free to see the 2017 fundraiser as a way of addressing the equally important toastie side of the equation.

After I suggested the other day that someone on the pro-indy side should urgently commission an opinion poll to counterbalance the dodgy poll in the Record, a number of you urged that I should use fundraiser money to do it myself.  That's probably not a realistic idea, because past fundraisers have generally only barely met their targets, so the chances are pretty slim that enough would be raised to cover the basic amount needed plus an opinion poll on top of that.  However, in the unlikely event that the new fundraiser significantly exceeds its target, I'll certainly consider the possibility.

As always, please don’t feel under any pressure to make a donation. Scot Goes Pop isn’t a newspaper or a magazine – it’s a blog, and there’s absolutely no charge to read it. The option to donate is there if you want to, but it’s only an option. And, of course, if you have a spare minute or two you can always pass on the word to others – every tweet or Facebook share helps enormously!

Click here if you'd like to donate.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Survation poll gives the lie to the notion that people are "scunnered" with referendums

Anyone who buys into the theory that people have just had enough of voting (and of referendums in particular) ought to take heed of the recent GB-wide YouGov poll showing a narrow majority in favour of a second general election as early as this autumn, and also tonight's UK-wide Survation poll showing a similar majority in favour of a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

On holding a referendum to accept or reject Brexit deal (Survation) :

Support 48%
Oppose 43%

The poll's Scottish subsample is tiny - but for what it's worth, it shows a somewhat bigger majority of 43% to 33% in favour of a referendum.  As the entire rationale of Indyref 2 is to give people the choice between Hard Brexit (assuming that's still what we're heading towards) and the only viable alternative, it would seem from these numbers that there are reasonable grounds for optimism that people will be receptive to the arguments in favour of holding a vote, if they are presented in a thoughtful way.

There's mixed news for Remainers in the other questions in the poll - the centre of gravity of public opinion appears to be support for remaining within the customs union from outside the EU.  Single market membership seemingly wasn't asked about, and that's arguably the more important aspect of the Soft/Hard Brexit divide.  (Norway is inside the single market but outside the customs union - and the reverse is true of Turkey, which speaks volumes.)  Extraordinarily, in spite of her catastrophic loss of general support, a narrow majority of respondents would still trust Theresa May's judgement if she decided that no deal was better than the deal on offer - although unsurprisingly respondents in Scotland take the opposite view by an overwhelming margin.

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I noticed a comment on Wings earlier today saying there had been a poll showing that the SNP would gain seats in an early general election.  I did a search and drew a complete blank, so I assumed it was probably just some sort of 'voodoo poll'.  But oddly enough, when I checked Survation's Twitter feed tonight, there was indeed a projection that the SNP would win 41 seats in a new general election (a gain of 6), and it was supposedly based in part on the notorious poll commissioned by the Record the other day.  That's peculiar, because as far as I can see there were no voting intention figures in the Record's reporting, and there are none in the published datasets either.  Could there have been voting intention results which have been withheld by the Record?  If so, did they do it because they didn't want anything to contradict the "disaster for SNP" narrative?  

I must stress this is just wild speculation.  But if by any chance there has been an unpublished Survation poll of Scottish voting intentions showing the SNP making ground rather than losing ground, that would be very significant.  The results would have been weighted back to 2017 recalled voting, which means they ought to be more accurate than the pre-election polling was.  I've been quite concerned that any new poll might actually show the SNP slipping behind Labour - that seems an odd thing to say given that Labour finished third only ten days ago, but shock election results can generate momentum like nothing else can.